Do you feel like you need more brain power? Are you struggling to concentrate or learn new things? Is brain fog stopping you from thinking straight? There are specific nutrients that your brain needs to fuel itself, so let’s take a look at what they are and where to get them from.
Brain power nutrition: magnesium and B vitamins
To keep learning, thinking and responding to your environment, your brain uses a lot of energy, about 20% of your body’s total energy expenditure. It can get that energy from sugar, but that’s not all it needs. You have to convert that sugar into ATP, your body’s energy batteries that store and provide fuel. Magnesium and B vitamins are both crucial to making that ATP.
Alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine and Alzheimer’s disease
Alpha lipoic acid is another nutrient needed for ATP production. Carnivores can get good levels from organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and heart, while vegetarians can get some alpha lipoic acid from spinach and broccoli. Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to improve memory and reduce cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
Acetyl-L-carnitine also seems to help prevent age-related cognitive decline and improve memory and learning. You can make it from amino acids in meat and vegan proteins, such as nuts and pulses.
Healthy brain cell membranes
DHA is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that makes up over 30% of your brain cell membranes. It’s thought that this high DHA content helps with synaptic plasticity, which is what you need to be able to learn, remember and rapidly process information.
DHA also helps stimulate sugar uptake into the brain and influences how well you make ATP from the sugar. So it’s no wonder that supplementing with DHA has been shown to improve thinking skills, memory and reaction times. DHA supplements are derived either from fish or from algae.
DHA helps to form a structure called phosphatidyl serine which makes up the layers of brain cell membrane. Phosphatidyl serine supplements have led to improvements in thinking skills and memory, as well as benefits for people with age-related decline.
Cocoa and berry flavonoids
A few berries dipped in dark chocolate may be just the thing here, as they are both rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are a family of plant nutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and there is evidence that cocoa and berry flavonoids may help boost your brain power too.
The flavonoids in berries have been shown to:
- improve communication between brain cells,
- increase plasticity and therefore connections,
- improve memory and learning, and
- reduce cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases as you get older.
Meanwhile cocoa flavonoids seem to encourage the growth of brain cells and blood vessels in parts of your brain associated with memory and learning. A human study saw improvements in brain cell plasticity after participants ate at least 70% dark chocolate.
If you’re feeling like you need more brain power, fuel it with more than just sugary snacks. Give your brain the boost of clever nutrients it needs to work at its best.